The Daily Southerner, Tarboro, NC

Local News

October 15, 2012

Kearney goes from battlefield to prime time TV

TARBORO — (EDITOR NOTE: This is the first of a two part series)

A 30-year-old Tarboro native has landed a script on the new ABC series, Nashville.

Melvin Kearney, who had very little aspiration of becoming a movie star, portrays a bodyguard named Bo for the lead character, Juliette Barnes, in the new musical drama, Nashville. Kearney's character is scheduled to debut Wednesday, Oct. 24. The program premiered Oct. 10 and airs at 10 p.m. every Wednesday on ABC.

"Every child, at one point in their lives, dreamt that they can get on the big screen," Kearny said during a telephone interview from his home in Nashville, Tenn. "But to be honest, I never thought it would happen to me. God is so good."

Kearney, who served two tours in Iraq, is employed in Nashville as a United States Army Wounded Warrior Advocate. Because of his tours and the devastation that he has personally experienced, he takes his job personally. That persona was perhaps the reason that Kearney landed the role as Bo.

Acting to fulfill the wish of the wife of one of his clients, put his picture on a business card so the wounded soldier — who was suffering memory loss — could remember him. Kearney hired a photographer to get his photo taken and during the photo shoot, the photographer apparently saw a little Hollywood in him.

"He said, 'You got that look. Do you mind if I pass these pictures along'?," Kearney said. "I said sure. In my mind I was saying what could it hurt? I agreed to do it but I wasn't expecting anything."

Kearney's first surprise came when they called him in for an audition. He said he walked in nervous, but when they told him his role he became relaxed.  

"A bodyguard. This is kinda of what I did when I was in the Army," he said. "I've dealt with hard times when I was in the Army. I told them about my true experiences in Iraq, where some of my buddies were killed in action. I thought I had gotten too emotional, too real, and I had blown the audition."

It didn't take him long to find out otherwise.

On his way home, Kearney got a phone call from the casters telling him he had the job. But he didn't know what kind of job. Kearney went in on his first day thinking he was going to be an extra.

"When I got there, someone said your trailer is over there," Kearney said. "The trailer had the name "Bo." I couldn't believe it. "I owe it all to God and my family. I owe it to the people in my hometown who encouraged me to never give up."

On the first night of the series, clips highlighting upcoming episodes flashed Kearney in his role. That sparked an increase in followers on his Facebook and Twitter accounts.

"I went from 200 people following me to about 104,000 people following me," Kearney said. "It was unreal."

It wasn't so unreal to the point that Kearney has forgotten his beginnings. He said he tells it everywhere he goes, where he's from.  

People asked me where I'm from and I proudly say, 'A little town called Tarboro, North Carolina,'" he said. "I'm proud of my hometown and I'm going to make my hometown proud of me."

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